As KDVR FOX 31 reports, El Paso County’s infamous former “Shirtless Sheriff” Terry Maketa walked out of court yesterday with not guilty verdicts on 3 of the 7 counts against him and a deadlocked jury on the other four–a surprising outcome to a case that has riveted El Paso County for several years:
A jury acquitted former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa on three of the seven counts he faced. Jurors deadlocked on the other four counts.
The jury declared Maketa not guilty on charges of official misconduct, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit witness tampering.
Maketa turned himself in in May 2016 after a criminal investigation that resulted in the indictment of nine felony charges, including extortion, false imprisonment and kidnapping. The judge threw out two of the counts against Maketa prior to the start of the trial.
After El Paso County DA Dan May recused himself from the case against Maketa, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler’s office took over the prosecution. And as the Colorado Springs Gazette reports in the aftermath of yesterday’s verdicts, Brauchler’s management of the case has been troubled to say the least:
In declining to discuss the verdict, jurors also evaded the question of how they split on the deadlocked counts, depriving prosecutors of valuable information as they consider whether to take the case to a different jury, experts say.
Hurlbert, an assistant district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, covering Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, declined to discuss what factors would come into play in deciding on a potential re-trial – except that resources wouldn’t decide the issue…
Hurlbert complained to the judge about serious preparation problems before trial, citing the unexpected resignation in May of his co-counsel, Grant Fevurly. On Wednesday, he said he and Fevurly’s successor, Chris Wilcox, arrived fully prepared for trial.
He declined to address other questions, citing the active charges in the case.
The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office – led by gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler – was assigned the case after El Paso County District Attorney Dan May recused his office, saying he wanted to avoid the appearance of bias. At least one El Paso County prosecutor took the stand against Maketa, accusing him of fashioning a “hit list” of employees whose careers he wished to damage.
It’s important to keep in mind that Terry Maketa was not some ordinary law enforcement officer who stepped into scandal. Maketa was once a frequent mention as a potential Republican candidate for higher office, having raised his profile considerably as an outspoken opponent of the 2013 gun safety bills passed in Colorado after the Aurora theater shooting. Maketa’s resignation under allegations of multiple felony crimes put a halt to his political upward mobility, but now that he’s been partially acquitted we suppose anything is possible–assuming he’s not retried on the four deadlocked counts, and that may not be known for some time.
For Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, now a candidate in the crowded GOP gubernatorial primary, this is another high-profile prosecutorial defeat hard on the heels of Brauchler’s failure to win the death penalty phase of the Aurora shooter trial. Sure, Republicans might not hold the failure to convict one of their own one-time up and comers against Brauchler much, but that invites another obvious question: how diligently did Brauchler’s office conduct this case against a fellow Republican law enforcement official? Did the jury deadlock because of the evidence, or a half-hearted prosecution? That’s the next logical question here, and we expect it to be asked in due course.
There’s certainly no good news here, unless your name is Terry Maketa.